Protecting our rights to freedom of assembly, celebration of culture and right to demonstrate and protest through marches, parades and static demonstrations is of paramount importance in all modern democracies and Scotland is no exception. We do not have to agree with each other to recognise the importance of protecting each other's rights to free speech and expression, but we do need to recognise that such rights are not absolute and there is a balance to be struck between exercising our own rights and infringing on those of others.
Scotland is a diverse multicultural society where the vast majority of marches, parades and static demonstrations pass off peacefully and without incident. We need to ensure that the processes which are in place for authorising such events are fit for purpose to allow everyone to exercise their right to peaceful participation in marches, parades and static demonstrations, and cannot tolerate the disorder, violence and other unlawful activity which can so easily mar otherwise legitimate events.
In 2016 the Scottish Government published the findings of the independent review undertaken by Dr Michael Rosie, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh on Marches, Parades and Static Demonstrations in Scotland. In recognition of the fact that circumstances have moved on since 2016, I asked Dr Rosie to carry out a further review on the progress made since his 2016 report including consideration of legislation, guidance and other processes associated with marches, parades and static demonstrations. I am keen to see how action might be progressed on the 7 recommendations which Dr Rosie has set out, and hope that all organisations will work together to make the improvements identified.
I would like to thank all the parties who met with Dr Rosie or who contributed to his review in any way, and am extremely grateful to Dr Rosie for all his time and hard work in undertaking the review. The review contains sound, practical advice and the Scottish Government will give full consideration to the 7 recommendations which have been made and will continue to work with march and parade organisers, Police Scotland and local authorities to improve the organisation and running of these events and ensure that appropriate action is taken to maintain order and public safety.
The review provides a good basis for constructive dialogue and cooperative work based on mutual respect to achieve our shared goal of exercising our rights in a peaceful and respectful way.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice